What can I do to Help Control my Diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious disease. You must commit to following your diabetes treatment plan 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Careful management of diabetes can lower your risk of serious, and even life-threatening, health problems.

All Types of Diabetes:

  • Commit to managing your diabetes: Learn all you can about your condition. Meet with a diabetes educator and ask your diabetes health care team for help when you need it.
  • Choose healthy foods and maintain a healthy weight: If you are overweight, losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can make a big difference in your blood sugar control. A healthy diet is one with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and healthy proteins, with a limited amount of saturated fat.
  • Make physical activity part of your daily routine: Regular exercise can help prevent prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, and it can help those who already have diabetes to maintain better blood sugar control. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise such as brisk walking most days, is recommended. A recent study found that a combination of aerobic exercises (such as walking or dancing) combined with resistance training (such as weightlifting or yoga) helps control blood sugar better than either type of exercise alone.

Lifestyle Changes for Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

There are some lifestyle changes that you can make to help type 1 or type 2 diabetes:

  • Identify yourself: Wear a tag or bracelet that lets others know that you have diabetes.
  • Keep a glucagon kit: Keep a glucagon (a hormone that raises blood glucose levels) injection kit nearby in case of a severe low blood sugar emergency and make sure your friends and loved ones know how to use it.
  • Schedule a yearly physical and regular eye exams. Your regular diabetes checkups aren’t meant to replace yearly physicals or routine eye exams. During the physical, your doctor will look for any diabetes-related complications and screen for other medical problems. Your eye care specialist will check for signs of retinal damage, cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Keep your shots up to date. High blood sugar can weaken your immune system. Get a flu shot every year and get a tetanus booster shot every 10 years. Your doctor will likely recommend the pneumonia shot as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends hepatitis B vaccination if you haven’t previously had a hepatitis B shot and you’re between the ages of 19 to 59 with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The most recent CDC guidelines advise getting all needed vaccines as soon as possible after being diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. If you are age 60 or older, have diabetes and are not up-to-date on your vaccines, talk to your doctor about whether you should get them.
  • Pay attention to your feet: Wash your feet daily in warm water. Dry them gently, especially between the toes. Moisturize with lotion, but not between the toes. Check your feet every day for blisters, cuts, sores, redness or swelling. Call your doctor if you have a sore or other foot problem that doesn’t start to heal on its own or if you notice anything unusual.
  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control: Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly can go a long way toward controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol. Medicine may also be needed. Talk to your doctor about your blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Take care of your teeth: Diabetes may make you more likely to get gum infections. Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day. And if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, schedule a dental exam at least once a year. Call your dentist right away if your gums bleed or look red or swollen.
  • If you smoke or use other types of tobacco, we can help you quit. Smoking increases your risk of having other health problems because of your diabetes. Heart attack, stroke, nerve damage and kidney disease can occur. Smokers who have diabetes are more likely to die of heart disease than are nonsmokers who have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Talk to your doctor about ways to stop smoking or using other types of tobacco. We can also help you quit through our Tobacco Free PATH program.
  • If you drink alcohol, be responsible: Alcohol can cause either high or low blood sugar, depending on how much you drink and if you eat at the same time. If you choose to drink, limit it to one drink a day for women, two drinks a day for men and always make sure to eat if you drink alcohol. Also, remember to add the carbohydrates from any alcohol you drink to your daily carbohydrate count.
  • Take stress seriously: If you’re stressed, it’s easy to stop following your usual diabetes management plan. The hormones your body makes when you are under stress can stop insulin from working properly, which can make your sugar level even worse. To take control of stress, set limits, prioritize your tasks, learn relaxation techniques and get plenty of sleep.

Above all, stay positive and committed to your diabetes management plan. The good habits you adopt today can help you enjoy an active, healthy life with diabetes.